Summary: The kingdom of God is like a treasure.
A number of years ago, there was a geologist by the name of Dr. Williamson who was doing some work in the country of Tanzania. One day, he found himself driving in a deserted area, slipping and sliding along a rain-soaked road. Suddenly his four-wheel drive vehicle sank up to its axles in the mud and got stuck.
Pulling out his shovel, Dr. Wlliamson began the unpleasant task of digging out of a mud hole. He had been at it for a while when his shovel uncovered something strange. It was a pink-like stone of some sort. Being a geologist and naturally curious about rock formations, he picked it up and wiped away the mud. The more mud he removed, the more excited he became, and could hardly believe what he saw. When the stone was finally clean, Dr. Williamson was beside himself with joy. He had discovered a diamond.
Now, any diamond at all would be a surprise in that situation. But Dr. Williamson found what became known as the famous pink diamond of Tanzania. That stone today sits in the royal scepter of Great Britain, and Dr. Williamson is famous around the world for his find -- as accidental as it may have been.
Well, in the two parables that we’re going to take a look at this morning, Jesus tells of two other men who made some amazing discoveries. I understand that the children studied these two parables last Sunday evening. How many of you children can raise your hand if you found a hidden treasure last week? Great! We’re going to look at a couple of other people who found treasures, also.
I. The Parable of the Treasure
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." (Matthew 13:44).
Burying your valuables in the ground sounds strange to us, but it was a very common practice in the first century. Today we usually put our money in a savings and loan company or a bank. We keep our valuables in a safe deposit box. But, back in those days, there were no banks for the common people. Only wealthy folks had access to banks, which in those days were not very safe places to keep your money anyway. Have you ever heard of wealthy old men who don’t trust the banks, so they stuff all their money in their mattress or they hide it all around the house? Well, that’s what the people of the first century did, only they didn’t have mattresses, so they buried it.
This was especially true in Palestine because it was a place of frequent warfare. Burying their valuables protected them against any enemies who might raid their homes and try to steal everything.
Remember in Matthew 25, Jesus told a story about a master who gave some talents to his servants. A talent was a measure of money. The first servant was given five talents, and the second was given two talents. They invested those amounts and multiplied their master’s money. But the third servant was worried. He didn’t want anything to happen to that money. He wanted to keep it safe, so what did he do? He buried it in the ground.
Over the years, the ground of Palestine became a veritable treasure house. When the owner of a buried treasure died or was forcefully driven from the land (like during the Babylonian exile), his treasure would be lost forever unless someone discovered it. So, in those days, it wasn’t uncommon at all for a person who was plowing or digging in a field to accidentally come across a treasure. So, Jesus’ parable described a very feasible situation.
Now, there is a concern that people sometimes have about this parable. At first glance, the man in the parable seems to be dishonest. Honest behavior would demand that this man tell the owner of the field about the treasure, since it was on his property and rightfully belonged to him. Right? Not necessarily.
Jewish rabbinic law said that "if a man finds scattered fruit or money, it belongs to the finder." So the people listening to the parable would not have perceived the man’s actions as unethical at all. In fact, the man had a right to what he found. If a man came across money or valuables that were obviously lost and whose owner was dead or unknown, the finder had a right to keep what was found -- even if was found on someone else’s property!
It’s obvious that the treasure didn’t belong to the man who owned the field. If it did, then he would have dug up the treasure before he sold the piece of ground. But he didn’t know it was there. Apparently it had belonged to a previous owner, who had probably died in battle or by accident, which prevented him from recovering it.